KITTANNING, Pa. (BP) – Harvest Church is one of the latest Pennsylvania congregations partnering with local elementary schools to host a “Bible2School” program designed to teach children about the Bible and the Gospel during the school day.
Each Wednesday, volunteers from Harvest bus nearly 50 kids from West Hills Primary School to the church campus during the students’ consecutive lunch and recess periods.
The hour-long program includes a large group teaching time while the students eat lunch, a small group time featuring crafts and a lesson review as well as a closing time of worship complete with memory verses.
Megan Caporali, children’s ministry director at Harvest Church and overseer of the “Bible2School” program, told Baptist Press the outreach is designed for children who may not be familiar with the Bible or the Gospel.
“We were targeting the families in which the kids may not ever get to attend church, but could attend this during the school day,” Caporali said.
“We don’t assume that the kids are coming in knowing any of the things we’re teaching, so it is a little bit different than a Sunday School in that we start more basic.”
Caporali teaches during the program’s large group time, which focuses on foundational theological truths such as what the Bible is, what the Bible is about and how God created the world.
She explained most of the parents marked on their child’s registration that the family did not regularly attend a church. This has not stopped the kids from eating up the lessons.
“The kids seem to really enjoy the program and they are learning a lot,” Caporali said. “It has been really cool to see these students who have never heard anything about Jesus, the Bible or have never even been to church before, and now they love coming to this.
“During our reviews of the previous week, I noticed at first that very few students would raise their hands to answer, but now it’s like I don’t know who to call on because they all have their hands raised to answer. It’s been really cool to see them grow and become more confident and know things about the Bible that they didn’t know before.”
Bible2School began in Lancaster, Pa., and aims to provide biblical materials designed to teach the Gospel to public school children.
The program is made possible by a Pennsylvania time-release law which requires schools to dismiss students to attend religious instruction for 36 hours during the school year if requested by a parent.
The guidelines for the law state the organization doing the instruction cannot be funded by taxpayer money, the program cannot take place on school property and student participation must be completely voluntary with permission from a parent or guardian.
Caporali, who has been the children’s director at Harvest since late 2021, said one of the pastors told her about Bible2School and suggested she look into it.
After months of research and training with the materials, she began meeting with the principal of West Hills Primary as well as the local superintendent.
She then gathered about 15 volunteers from Harvest, and the program was launched in September 2022.
The program’s initial 24 spots filled up quickly, so organizers began renting a bus to transport students. They now reach 48 kids each week.
Bible2School has curriculum for second, third and fourth grade, but Harvest began its program focused only on second grade with the hope of adding the other grades in the near future.
Caporali has noticed an increase in the number of students in Harvest’s children’s gatherings on Sundays, as several families from the Bible2School outreach have begun attending.
Additionally, Caporali has used her relationship with the school to advertise for other events and ministries of Harvest. She sent home flyers to nearly 600 students promoting the church’s movie night in January.
Attendance at the movie night doubled in size compared to the same event last year, and most of the nearly 250 attendees had never visited the church before.
In addition to their own fundraising and support received from Bible2School, Harvest also received an evangelism grant from the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania-South Jersey to finance the program.
“It’s so nice to have people who may even be hundreds of miles away that believe in what you’re doing and support you in your endeavor to reach kids for the Gospel,” Caporali said.
Ultimately, the organizers’ goal for Bible2School is to fulfill the Great Commission.
“A successful program would be having kids be excited to come and learn about Jesus, even if it’s just one child it’s worth doing the program for, and we hopefully will see their parents start loving Jesus too,” Caporali said.